Day 1 preview: Team World target improved start
Defending champions Team Europe and a fired-up Team World will go head-to-head for the third time when Laver Cup 2019 gets under way on Friday at Palexpo, Geneva.
Team Europe is trying to retain the trophy it won two years ago in Prague, and again in Chicago last year.
A packed crowd will witness two superstar teams in action, with home hero Roger Federer joined by Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Fabio Fognini on the home team.
If Europe have held sway on court over the last two years, the red bench has led the way in terms of team celebrations – John Isner, Nick Kyrgios, Milos Raonic, Taylor Fritz, Denis Shapovalov and Jack Sock will line up for Team World this time.
“It’s going to be very exciting,” said Europe captain Bjorn Borg.
“Team World have a strong team – the previous years have been two very close matches and I think it’s going to be a nerve-wracking competition. We’re going to try to defend our title.”
We have to improve our record in the doubles. We have to win a few this time – Bjorn Borg
Team World Captain John McEnroe is determined to turn the tide and get his hands on the Laver Cup for the first time.
“We’ve got guys who can take the racquet out of anyone’s hand and the key is to get hot at the right time,” he said.
Each match on Day 1 is worth one point towards the target of 13 required to win the Laver Cup on Sunday.
Dominic Thiem (Europe, ranked 5th) v Denis Shapovalov (World, ranked 33rd)
Team World have yet to win an opening-day singles match in six attempts, and the rankings suggest the drought will continue – but Shapovalov is hopeful that a recent upturn in form will make the difference. Thiem has won both of their previous encounters, however. “I’m just excited more than anything,” said Shapovalov. “Hopefully I can kick-start it for our team and get the first point, but for sure it’s a tough match against Dominic.”
Fabio Fognini (Europe, ranked 11th) v Jack Sock (World, ranked 210th)
American Sock has the Laver Cup experience behind him, and the second-best points total in tournament history with 10, but they have all come in doubles where he excels. Fognini might be a Laver Cup debutant but the form that saw him break into the top 10 in recent months, and an irrepressible attitude, suggest he will relish taking centre stage at Palexpo. “I’m just going to use the confidence I’ve had over the last two years in doubles and try to get us some points this weekend,” said Sock. “Hopefully I can surprise the whole world and get a singles win as well.”
Stefanos Tsitsipas (Europe, ranked 7th) v Taylor Fritz (World, ranked 30th)
The evening session will begin with a first meeting between two of the new young stars of tennis, both making their first Laver Cup appearances. “It’s an honor joining such important players in our era, being part of this unique celebration,” said Tsitsipas. “What I’m aiming for this week is gaining experience and learning from all the guys. People obviously expect a show and we’re here to give it to them.” Fritz said: “I love the energy of being with all these guys and being around the team environment. I’m just really excited for my match and hopefully getting us started on day one with a win.”
Roger Federer / Alexander Zverev (Europe) v Denis Shapovalov / Jack Sock (World)
Doubles is where Team World has flourished at the Laver Cup, in large part due to the skills of Sock, and the red team will be counting on extending their domination over the next three days. “Shapo and I will be first-time partners and we’re gojng to go out, have fun and stay relaxed – we play our best when we’re having fun out there.” Federer and Zverev will be looking to go one better than last year when they lost narrowly to Sock and John Isner. “We have to improve our record in the doubles,” said Europe Captain Borg. “We have to win a few this time.”
Game Insight Group analysis
- The Day 1 Laver Cup lineup will bring tennis fans four match-ups never before seen at Laver Cup, and the debuts of three new competitors at the event in Tsitsipas, Fritz and Fognini.
- Europe has the edge in singles and is expected to take the wins in each of the singles matches on Day 1. However, no singles player is a surefire winner and the matches between Thiem-Shapovalov and Tsitsipas-Fritz are expected to be very close.
- Team World is the strong favorite in the doubles match on Day 1. Jack Sock has been a staple of doubles for Team World, appearing in all six of the doubles matches played at Laver Cup.
- Despite being the underdogs for this match, Federer and Zverev may have experience and a desire for revenge on their side. The pair teamed up for the final day of the 2018 Laver Cup, losing in a close 3-set battle against John Isner and Jack Sock.
The Game Insight Group, formed by Tennis Australia in partnership with Victoria University, is a team of experts revolutionising tennis through science.